HealthDay News — More than 40% of energy drink-related reports to poison control centers involved children aged six years or under from 2010 to 2013, according to research presented at the American Heart Association (AHA)’s annual meeting, held from Nov. 15 to 19 in Chicago.

“This disproportionate representation of children is concerning given the number of reports of serious cardiac and neurological symptoms,” said Steven Lipshultz, MD, of Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, and colleagues in an AHA news release.

To determine the number of reports involving energy drink exposure in children, the investigators analyzed records from the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ national Poison Data System. Exposures were defined as actual or suspected contact with any substance which has been ingested, inhaled, absorbed, applied to, or injected into the body, regardless of toxicity or clinical manifestation.

Of the 5,156 reported cases of energy drink exposure, 40% were unforeseen exposures by young children. Moderate to major outcomes were reported in 42% of cases involving energy drinks that had been mixed with ethanol and in 19% of non-alcohol-containing energy drinks.

Cardiovascular effects such as an abnormal heart rhythm and conduction abnormalities, were reported in 57% of cases, reported the scientists. In 55% of cases, neurological side effects were observed.

Some energy drinks have up to 400 mg of caffeine per serving, compared with about 100 mg or 150 mg in a typical cup of coffee. Poisoning by caffeine can occur at levels higher than 400 mg a day in adults, and above 100 mg a day in teens.

“Energy drinks have no place in pediatric diets,” said Lipshultz, “and anyone with underlying cardiac, neurologic or other significant medical conditions should check with their healthcare provider to make sure it’s safe to consume energy drinks.”